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Written by Allen Trench Kaombe

 

Taking Blood Donation to the Grassroots

Talk of blood shortages at the Malawi Blood Transfusion Service and the hospitals has been chronic. The big question from the media is always to check on solutions the MBTS has to ensure availability of safe and adequate blood in the hospitals. 

Well to the mass media? It would appear as if MBTS is doing nothing but the old-school way of blood collection. However, there is a need to understand the necessity of efforts to collect quality blood. And that means MBTS has to identify blood donors, educate them so that they understand blood donation, testing, processing and distribution.

Blood donors ought to know why MBTS cannot visit certain areas and other people cannot donate blood. Just a build-up case: there are a number of infections which can be contracted through blood transfusion and these are hepatitis B and C (HBV and HCV), Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Malaria and Syphilis. When MBTS has collected the blood, it tests it for the aforementioned infections to ensure that only blood that tests negative for such infections is supplied to the hospitals. One of the tasks of MBTS to ensure quality blood is to identify areas and institutions that have low risks in respect of these infections. That means MBTS cannot risk going into areas where there is a number of activities that encourage contraction of such infections.

As such even when low risk populations have been identified, MBTS still shoulders the responsibility to explain the dos and don’ts of blood donation, the blood donation process, the testing for infections, blood grouping (identification of blood types of the collected blood) and the distribution to various hospitals. People are initially told the criteria for one to qualify for blood donation. This is done to facilitate the process of people making informed decisions before they donate blood.

All issues stated above have been done in colleges and secondary schools, places of work and worship. Having been in institutions, MBTS management thought of two strategic issues. One of the issues is to partner the media to advocate for blood donation, associations and clubs that have significant following and, non-government organizations with established grassroot structures. Further on its own efforts, MBTS is engaging various traditional leaders to champion blood donation in villages.

A case in point here is the story of various traditional leaders. In Thyolo, T/A Bvumbwe, T/A Mchilamwera, T/A Chimaliro and T/A Thomas are championing blood donation to the point that village blood collection has substituted visits to companies. That is not to say companies and organizations are not important but rather people have embraced blood donation as their issue to resolve.

I can go to mention Inkosi ya Makosi Mbelwa, Gogo Kampingo Sibande in Mzimba where as TAs Kalonga and Nkhombedza carry the day in Salima. TAs, Msalamala in Balaka and Champiti in Ntcheu, TA Nsomba,  Lundu in Blantyre, Maseya, Senior Paramount Lundu, Ngabu in Chikhwawa and TA Mulolo in Nsanje are also working to ensure their people understand blood donation.

All I would like to say is that the future of blood donation in Malawi resides in the villages and townships. Once the concept of voluntary blood donation is well explained, the word of mouth goes out like bush fire. It becomes easier for Area Development Committee members to explain to the masses. MBTS and the District Health Office (DHO) explain the technical issues surrounding blood donation and transfusion.

Currently Malawi requires around 120, 000 units of whole blood annually according to a study which was conducted by MBTS in 2016. Meanwhile in the just ended financial and operating year, MBTS collected 60, 000 units.

Since MBTS began progress has been made but real achievement is required in fulfillment of supplying what Malawi hospitals really need in terms of blood. This can only been done if other traditional leaders embrace the championing of voluntary blood donation in various parts of the country. MBTS will always be available to collect blood when a call is made to educate people and collect blood.

Let us champion blood donation in rural communities.

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